Chirmiri to Sandakphu, Kerala to Shillong: Here are 10 travel destinations for 2017

With rocky mountains and the western ghats on one side and the Arabian Sea on the other, Gokarna in Karnataka is a paradise. In fact, there is a beach named Paradise there. Another popular one is Om Beach named after Lord Shiva who is the revered figure here. You will find not only spectacular temples peppered all over this coastal town but also the feeling of trance that Shiva experiences perpetually. The lull of the beaches, coupled with the pristine beauty of the hills, makes you want to stay still and just breathe in the moment. And in case you like to socialise, you can always descend from the hills like the Shiva did and mingle with the fun like-minded crowd at the beaches. If you can make it to Gokarna on Maha Shivratri, it will serve as a divine experience, in more ways than one.

Imagine playing golf on a hill station. You can't, right? While golf demands a wide expanse of green, that visual is rarely associated with a hill station. However, Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, not only offers this luxury, but offers it in style. It is credited with having one of the few natural golf courses in Asia. To add to its appeal, it is the wettest golf course in the world. One can also enjoy a wide angle view of the golf course from Shillong Peak, which is the apex point of the state of Meghalaya. This spot offers a panaromic view of the entire town which is an absolutely breathtaking treat. If you feel inclined to explore the Northeast, you can also pay a visit to the Don Bosco Centre for Indigenous Cultures in Shillong for thoroughly research on the area and all its hidden corners.

You will rarely find this cozy, quaint town in Chhattisgarh on any travel lists. This small town is more renowned for its commercial ventures as it boasts of rich coal mines. However, in spite of its rocky terrain, the life there is pretty  chilled out. Remember the story how the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan cut off the hands of the men who helped build the Taj Mahal so that they could not replicate it elsewhere? Well, it's a good thing those who built the Puri Jagannath Temple in Odisha didn't suffer a similar fate as they went on to replicate the architectural marvel in Chirmiri as the Lord Jagannath Temple. Add to that, the laid-back lifestyle of the people and the Amritdhara falls 17 km away from the town, you will find Chirmiri to be the stunning diamond amid the coal, that has stood the test of time.

Irrespective of whether you are an atheist or a firm believer, Vaishno Devi in Jammu and Kashmir is a tourist attraction that you cannot afford to miss. We do not recommend you walk all the way up to the much-revered temple but take the three-kilometer stroll from any of the airbases where you can reach through a chopper. Once you reach the airbase, you will be awestruck by the chopper ride which gives you a wide angle view of the mountains. The feeling of being above the mighty mountains is unparalleled. Juxtapose that with the feeling of walking your way up to the hill thereafter and you may initially feel frustrated and exhausted. But once you start the journey on foot, the scenic beauty will reinvigorate you like nothing else. By the time you reach the temple, there is a good chance that you might have already had your 'darshan.'

Nainital's one of the most poetic places ever. As you're boating on Nainital Lake, surrounded by the magnificent mountains; a cloud gently engulfs you and your guide stops the boat. In that moment, you feel so insignificant: a speck of dust in the vastness of the universe, but one smart enough to appreciate its magnitude. That is the untouched beauty of this hill station in Uttarakhand. This place looks like Shimla, but from a decade ago when it was not a hub of commercial exploitation. The crystal clear water of Nainital Lake will remind you of the Dal Lake of Kashmir. However, unlike Dal Lake, Nainital Lake is easily accessible and does not harbour the host of gigantic houseboats that have peopled the surface of Dal Lake in the past few years. Also, the Jim Corbett National Park is just some kilometers away.

Nepal boasts of having the highest peaks of the world. While it is may not be feasible to visit Nepal itself, one can enjoy the sight of these mighty mountains from a safe distance at Sandakphu which rests comfortably on the border of Nepal and West Bengal. Four of the highest peaks of the world, Everest, Kangchenjunga, Lhotse and Makalu can be viewed at this summit. It is a favoured trail for hikers. The vistas may seem unearthly but the cold, harsh winds bring you back to earth.

It is a destination in India, yet away from it. Havelock Island is a part of Ritchie's Archipelago, part of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The smooth ferry ride from Port Blair is just a curtain raiser for what is in store for you when you reach Havelock. The sea appears seamless; you gradually start to break free of all the blues that you have stored inside you for days. Though you stand against the breeze, you feel like you stand in harmony with nature. While it is very much a part of India, you find few glimpses of India in Havelock, apart from Indian couples sporting straw hats. However, the feeling of alienation never sets in. In many ways, Havelock is the quintessential 'home away from home.'

This Union Territory near Tamil Nadu has both chalk and cheese, apples and oranges and all the other contrasting symbols co-exiting peacefully with each other on the same street. The spread of the street is characteristically French given the pebbled promenades and elegant street lamps. The spotlessly clean beaches and the murmur of Tamil make for a laid-back vacation. The hygiene and cleanliness are reflective of the union territory's exceptionally high rate of literacy which stands at around 85 percent, according to the Census of 2011. Also close at hand is the experimental town of Auroville which attracts tourists from across the world, thanks to its eclectic population and the progressive thought that they profess as a unit.

McLeod Ganj is a cultural hub right in the midst of the bitterly cold mountains of Himachal Pradesh. Once you enter the mountain town, you feel like the hills around you suddenly turn into these structures full of life and creative energy. You will see a lot of peace-loving Buddhists in McLeod Ganj who smile warmly at you as you smile back while relishing the lip-smacking momos. The vibrancy of this place lies in its market which offer a never-seen-before range of winter wear. In a nutshell, McLeod Ganj feels like a woolly rug on a brutal winter night.

A boat ride through the backwaters of Kerala has quite the therapeutic effect. As you peep into the water, hoping to find the most exotic of marine life somewhere in there, you realise that the reflected coconut trees are your only companions. They stay with you throughout the boat ride and reassure you with their company to such an extent that you forget about the presence of fellow humans on the boat, the boatman who rows you through the lagoons that snake the landscape of Kerala. You feel like in God's Own Country, the Almighty is sharing the silence with you.

Updated Date: Dec 26, 2016 17:36:16 IST